Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Planning

We celebrated a major family event this past weekend. My daughter, Danielle turned 13 at the beginning of Nov. On Nov 24, 2007 we celebrated as she became a bat Mitzvah. To those of you that may be unaware of what this means, let me explain briefly. A bat Mitzvah is the girl's equivalent to a bar Mitzvah. A Jewish child of 13 is called to the Torah (the scrolls containing the 5 books of Moses - the Bible or Old Testament to most people). The child will say a prayer before reading from the Torah, in Hebrew, then read a passage from the holy scrolls, then read another prayer. This rite of passage signifies a Jewish child's transition to adulthood.

Now that we are all on the same page, lets discuss Planning.

My wife, Sharon, daughter Danielle, son Alex and I have been preparing for this event for several months now. There are many preparations and plans to be made including:

1. Studying prayers and Torah portions

2. Writing speeches and poems (for candle lighting)

3. Planning a party which is broken into many, many small pieces including:
a. securing a catering hall
b. securing entertainment
c. capturing the event (video & still photography)
d. providing take-aways for the guests (sweatshirts, CD's, other gifts)
e. providing transportation to the party for the kids
f. designing decorations for the room (table centerpieces, etc.)
g. invitations
h. quite a few other odds and ends, too numerous to list.
For those of you that may have planned a wedding at some time in your life, this may sound somewhat familiar. Add into that event planning for entertainment, etc. for both adults and kids (of all ages).

With all the planning, project management and quality management skills are essential. We needed every element of this event to come together at a specific time on a specific date, over a holiday weekend, no less.

I am truly pleased to say that, barring one unanticipated incident, it all came off without a hitch...I guess Sharon and I truly are good project managers!

The reason I am writing about this is to share with you the one unanticipated incident.

The bus company, contracted to transport the kids (and there were 53 of them) from the synagogue to the party site never showed. I was steaming. However, I put on my Corrective Action hat and took immediate short term corrective action. First I stopped a handful of my guests from leaving before I placed 1 or 2 kids in each car. Thankfully many of our adult guests just took their own children with them. There were only about a dozen or so that needed placement in car and that occurred almost seamlessly.

My big issue is the Long Term Corrective Action. My initial response was to contact the Bus Company, after the fact as they were not available on Saturday midday. I finally made the call today (Tue, Nov 27) after I had several days to cool off. I explained to my supplier how dissatisfied I was with his lack of customer service. He assured me that the particular driver selected to service us would never be given 'charter' work again. This was not really satisfying to me and I told him so, in not such gentle language. He also offered me his organizations service free of charge in the future for either myself or a friend. I cannot give his offer to a friend as I have no confidence in his ability to deliver and I cannot use his service myself in the future. My sample size of 1 was a total failure. I have no faith in his process.

So I ask you, my readers, am I being to harsh?
Is my sampling plan off?
Do I give this guy another chance?
Or, do I do as I told him and spread this story around so he will lose business?
We all know one dissatisfied customer leads to a significant loss of business not only from that customer but from his friends and colleagues.
This guy tried to make amends but it was too little, too late for me.
He cannot correct the issue of potentially ruining my daughter's special day.

I'd like to hear your opinion of what you'd do in my situation.

Friday, October 5, 2007

ASQ's Ideas to Action Gathering

I had the pleasure of attending the ASQ Ideas to Action Gathering (ITAG) in Orlando in April and in Milwaukee in September. Additionally I was part of the ITAG design team for both the Spring and Fall events. I want to focus this discussion on the Sep event.

The ITAG is an ASQ Member Leader activity focused on improving member value through the development of ideas then identifying opportunities to put these ideas into action.

As part of the design team I also had the opportunity to facilitate one of the break-out sessions. My session dealt with Member Engagement...how can we get members more involved in our Member Unit (Sections, Divisions, Forums, etc.) activities. Many great ideas came from this breakout session. I would like to share just one of those ideas. At this break out session the discussions were all center around the question of what can member leaders do to engage the members in the planned activities, how can member units get members more involved as leaders and what do members want from their member unit. The resounding answer to each question was to 'JUST ASK'. If we do not ask what they want or if they will help with a task we will never get them involved.

In the movie Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe Jackson is regularly heard by Ray Kinsella saying "If you build it, they will come". This worked out in the movie - fiction! In reality, this does not happen. We present programs at the member units of ASQ and do not get the response / attendance we hope to achieve. We build it and they don't come. My thought is, if we build it and they want it, they may come. Some of the factors that must be considered during the design phase are:
  • what do they want
  • when do they want it
  • where do they want it
  • what will they pay for it
If we fail to consider all these factors, we will build an unsuccessful event. So we need to answer these questions and the only way to answer these questions is to ask the members. In my opinion, surveys alone will not succeed in providing this informtion We must ask our members directly. Pick up the phone and call them on a sampling basis prior to beginning the planning process. Get real feedback. Then begin providing what they want. By the way, this concept applies to almost anything, not just an ASQ member unit.

A few days after the ITAG I had the good fortune of providing leadership training to a group of member leaders from one of the ASQ Region 3 sections. An attendee of this session was quite impressed by the Just Ask concept and wrote the following for his section's newsletter which is reprinted below by permission from Cliff Wolff:

After attending the Membership Leader Training session given by David Levy, I was motivated to write something that would get some of the ASQ people to "Just Ask". He is very knowledgeable and a great motivator.

Looking Out and Looking In

Looking out for yourself is a good thing, because if you don't, to depend upon or expect others to do the deed you may experience a degree of disappointment.

Looking out for yourself in a proper manner requires "Looking In" toward yourself from a comfortable and controllable distance.

Do you ask yourself: "What is ASQ doing for me"? Well, their training courses improve my job performance and therefore improves my paycheck and the networking is priceless. All of this is the "Looking Out" for yourself part.

What are you doing for ASQ? The ASQ is no stronger than the sum of it's parts, and you and I are parts of the ASQ. Collectively, we can build an indestructible pyramid of greatness - for ourselves, our community and the world. (even for the universe, by extension)

Wow, how can I help? "JUST ASK" as David Levy, ASQ Region 3 Director advised us during the Membership Leader Training session held at the Residence Inn in Plainview on Friday, 9-28-07.

It was a great learning experience and sharing ideas with the pro's. All part of the Six Sigma tool for "continual improvement" of self and our organization.

Thank you, David and I'm sure I speak for all our ASQ family members.

Please, "JUST ASK" Get answers to your questions and offer to assist in some small or large manner, where you are comfortable with taking and giving back.

It is a win - win situation for all. Remember, come see us and "JUST ASK".

Further on the ITAG...my colleague, Aimee Siegler, ASQ Director at Large, writes a column for the ASQ Weekly called Making the Connection. By permission from Aimee, I am posting her latest column here as I feel her thoughts will add further value to this discussion:

Making the Connection
by Aimee Siegler

On September 23-25, 160 of your member leaders got together for the Ideas to Action Gathering in Milwaukee to talk about Extreme Member Value.

ASQ President Mike Nichols explained that the Gathering is unique in that we are not expecting a clear, intended outcome. The objective is to integrate the concept of Extreme Member Value into the sections, divisions, and activities such as the World Conference.

Prior to this meeting, member leaders were surveyed for their definition of Extreme Member Value. Five themes emerged:

  • Excitement and Engagement
  • Exceeding Expectations
  • Return on Investment
  • Indispensable Resources
  • Responsiveness

These themes were used to develop the program agenda. It included five breakout sessions where we shared our thoughts on shaping different areas that affect member value. We then worked together to create the story of ASQ’s future.

I will share one specific example from the Membership Committee as to how the Gathering information will be used. Once our feedback has been analyzed, it will be
integrated into a membership three-year plan that aligns with the Society’s
strategic goals. Ideas requiring more research will also be reviewed.

For me, the highlights of the event were:

  • The energy and enthusiasm I felt throughout the weekend.
  • The opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.
  • A spontaneous Women in Quality networking session at the end of the event.

I look forward to seeing the data after staff analysis and the opportunity to turn
the new ideas into actions.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Quality, Quality of Life and the Family Vacation

As previously stated in this blog, Quality can be defined as User Defined or Fitness for Use. A well planned vacation that is executed as planned would be a Quality vacation. That said, I have to admit that our summer vacation was a Quality vacation.

My family and I recently returned from a 10 day vacation which included stops in San Diego, CA, Las Vegas, NV, Grand Canyon, AZ, Hoover Dam, Sedona, AZ and Phoenix, AZ. This was a Quality of Life trip as well as a stroll down memory lane for me.

In 1975 my parents packed 3 suitcases (one for the adults, one for the kids and a third garment carrier which contained 'special' clothing for our more formal nights) and jetted us off to Denver, CO for a world-wind tour of the western part of the US. We stopped in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada (north), California (traveling from Yosemite to LA), back to Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (pan handle) and back to Colorado to fly home. There were 3 individual day trips into Mexico boarder towns, too. We traveled about 10,000 miles in 30 days visiting national parks, various cities and sites galore. We saw family throughout the country, some that I've not seen since. My sister even visited a pen-pal in San Francisio. It was a great trip that we still discuss.

So this summer I packed up my wife and kids (more bags, less formal wear) and headed west for our own adventure. Some of the stops were the same, some were new to me. I tried to repeat some of the adventures my dearly departed dad presented like stopping at the first service stop in Nevada to see that there was a Slot Machine available...this still tickles my funnybone as there was a Slots room at that first gas station. New adventured included eating at a road-side rest on Route 66...no it was not Flo's from the movie Cars as well as the Wild Animal Safari Park (part of the San Diego Zoo) and LEGOLAND® Californiatheme park. We also visited with family in Arizona which was a great life experience for all of us.

What I want to talk about with regard to this vacation and Quality of Life are two experiences at LEGOLAND® California.
1. LEGOLAND® California is a full amusement / theme park with rides for kids of all ages. From our perspective, though, it is truly geared toward young minds, I'd say from 4 - 12. Luckily, my kids (12 & 10) fit right in the optimal age range. We had lunch at the Sports Cafe in the park. What attracted us to the cafe was their 'Kids Buffet'. My daughter is a picky eater. She saw lots of food on this buffet that would please her. My son, on the other hand, is what we call a 'foodie'...he likes to eat, has a decerning palate and does not like 'kid food'. So to maximize our adventure (and minimize our costs) we agreed to allow my son to choose from the parents menu but order a kids buffet. My wife ordered his meal and they swapped. The Quality of Life moment was when my daughter (remember she is the picky eater that is never satisfied when we eat out, unless its at a pizzeria or hot dog stand) announced 'This is the best meal I've ever had!'. To us this was the ultimate Customer Satisfaction moment...LEGOLAND® California should be proud of themselves.

2. Within the park they have a mock-up of a Lego factory so that visitors can see how these magic blocks are made. For the record, I've been building with Lego blocks for over 40 years and I have never seen a single defective block...that is quite a record of manufacturing performance as far as I am concerned. the Quality of Life moment came when I was finishing the walk-through. The family was ahead of me and into the store adjoining the factory. I stopped at the last mock-up which was packaging and began speaking with the Guest Service representative, Renate. I mentioned to her that my Uncle Eddie had glued together Lego assemblies in the window of his toy store in Queens, NY back in the 1960's and 1970's. I also mentioned that the remainder of those structures (part of a house, a man and a clock face) are in my son's Lego collection and played with regularly. Renate was impressed by this announcement and asked where my family was. I told her and she asked me to bring them back into the 'factory'. I did as instructed and Renate gave us a private tour of the inner workings of this factory regaling my kids with some priceless gifts and memories.

Danielle & Alex (Sharon is in the background)

Alex, Renate & Danielle

Danielle & I found the Quality Department
I was so impressed with the personalized customer service that upon my return to New York I visited LegoLand's web site to provide positive customer feedback. The LEGOLAND® California organization continued to impress me by responding to my feedback...see below.

September 12, 2007

David B. Levy

Dear Mr. Levy,
Thank you for taking the time to e-mail us here at LEGOLAND® California and share your experience at The Factory Tour with us. We appreciate feedback from all of our Guests and are pleased to hear that you had such a nice encounter with Renate.

It is wonderful to know that your time with Renate provided you and your kids with such happy memories. We thank you for your photo, as well, and have shared it and your comments with Renate, so that she will know how much you appreciated her efforts. Please be assured that your comments were also passed onto our Director of Operations and our Director of Food & Beverage for their review.

We value your patronage and thank you again for taking the time to give us this valuable feedback. We look forward to having you visit with us again someday soon.


Jolene Sanchez
Guest Service Liaison
LEGOLAND® California

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Excerpt from Ron Rosenberg's Magic of Marketing e-newsletter

I receive a regulare newsletter from Ron Rosenberg, an expert on Marketing. While this is not my business, I do find some golden nuggets in Mr. Rosenberg's words, from time to time. This one is worth sharing. If you like what you read, sign up for Ron's newsletter and acquire these nuggets on your own.

Excerpt from

The Week of August 20, 2007

I'm convinced that we're not doing our kids any favors by helping them as much as we do. And I don't just mean my own kids - I'm talking about our society as a whole. Don't get me wrong, I like to help them out and support their interests and activities.

But not when they take it for granted and don't seem to appreciate all the opportunities they have.

I was discussing this with someone a few weeks ago who shared a very interesting story with me. Seems a friend of his is wealthy. I mean really wealthy - as in "filthy stinkin' rich" wealthy - and has been for some time.

They have four grown children who are basically spoiled waste products who don't do anything except spend their parents' money and wait for them to die so they can get it all for themselves.

The father kept encouraging them to get off their butts and do something but with no success.

Finally, one day, the gears kind of clicked into place and he realized that he was the primary cause of all of this because he continued to support them while they did nothing with their lives.

So about a week later, he invited all four kids over for dinner, and after a great meal, told them he had an important announcement to make. Sensing that something exciting was about to happen, probably involving more money for them, they sat up and leaned in expectantly.

Then the father dropped the bomb: he told them that he had removed them from his will. All four of them. They weren't going to get a dime when he died - all of it was going to charity.

But then he told them something else: that he would help create any business, venture, or enterprise they wanted to start while he was still alive.

This would give them the opportunity to build something that could sustain them after he was gone. Since he wasn't all that old, there was time to actually make something work, but who really knows what happens from one day to the next?

Of course the kids reacted predictably with emotions ranging from disbelief to indignity to complete and total outrage. They protested and asked him to reconsider, but he explained that he had been to the lawyer's office that afternoon, and that it was a done deal.

When I heard this story I grinned from ear to ear. I thought it was one of the smartest things I had ever heard. Then, after a brief pause, I asked an important question: Did any of the kids take him up on his offer and start a business? Unfortunately it had just happened a month ago and it was too early to tell.

Besides, it was probably going to take a few more months for it to actually sink in to the point where the kids finally realized that they're actually supposed to do something with their lives.

And this story has some key points for you whether you have kids or not.

First, you shouldn't reward people for no reason at all. Kids should contribute to household chores. Vendors should deliver what they promise.

Employees shouldn't get extra recognition just for doing their jobs.

Second, setting deadlines is a great motivator. In this case, the deadline is really a "dead" line - the offer expires when the father "expires."

And finally, sometimes you have to go to extreme measures to get someone's attention - just like cutting out our own kids' allowances when it was time for them to get a part-time job and start working.

Leadership - an attempt to influence other people's behavior - is never easy. But it is important. Make sure you're sending the right messages because that's the real wealth you have to offer.

Ron Rosenberg helps businesses get more customers than they know what to do with and keep them for life. Get your FREE Gift from Ron – over $349 in business resources guaranteed to increase sales and revenue – at www.qualitytalk.com/gift.

© 2007 QualityTalk, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Auditing

I've been auditing Quality Management Systems for about 15 years.
  • My earliest experiences include ISO 9002:1987.
  • Then I worked on a Certified Supplier Program geared toward Dock to Stock.
  • That was followed by a stint with ISO 9001:1984.
  • In the past 6 or 7 years I've been involved with both ISO 9001:2000 QMS audits and supplier audits to meet project requirements per the customer's specifications.

Okay, so I have quite extensive quality audit experience. Now you may be asking, what's the point of this, or do I even have a point. Well, I'll tell you, I find several aspects of auditing quite frustrating...

The auditors (my team and me) are diligent about reviewing the processes to assure compliance to the specific standard. Is this enough? I say NO!

So we take it further, we bring out 'Profound Knowledge' to the audit and share with the auditee our life experiences to help him/her improve the processes.

So, where is the frustration? It lies with the auditee. Typically, they go through the motions and listen without hearing your input and fail to take actions to improve their methods.

Is this a failure of the audit? I say NO, again!

It is a failure of our management systems. We do not take the function of auditing seriously enough and do not escalate the findings to an organizational point were real action will be taken. This applied both internally (internal audits) and externally (audits of suppliers).

Okay, so I'm being a bit generic, some organizations are serious about their audit program. From my experience, these organizations are few and far between. Most do their audits and take basic corrective action to meet the minimum requirement of the standard or the contract. This is not enough.

Auditing is the purest form of Quality. It provides us with a look (deep or shallow, whichever we choose) into our designed system in order to identify opportunities to improve the system. Auditing is not about:
  1. Pointing fingers;
  2. Laying blame;
  3. Searching for defects, errors or faults.

Auditing is all about:

  1. Assuring compliance;
  2. Process verification;
  3. Identifying opportunities for improvement.

In a nutshell, the function of auditing itself is the pure form of quality. However, without follow through on improvement opportunities the audit itself can be rendered meaningless.

A final note on this discussion...be sure that the audit itself has added value to your overall business management system. Auditing for the sake of auditing is as much a waste of time and resources as failure to follow through with implementing improvements.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Quality Thought

Its July 4, 2007, I'm sitting in the kitchen watching the Sunshine Boys (Burns & Matthau are brilliant!), and listening to my wife and son playing guitar together which lead me to this quality thought...

The Practice of Quality

In many businesses like music, sport, theather/acting, medicine, law, accounting, etc. the professionals and amatures alike refer to what they do as practice...some practice before a performance, others practice as they perform. So why can't we refer to the quality profession as a practice.

Our organizations' products or services will never be perfect (at least not perfect to everyone) Quality professionals and practitioners are called upon to help improve the product, process or service by guiding the organizations to solving problems. Is what we do not a practice...practice until we get it perfect.

We are expected to solve the problems regardless of the cause. Yet if a solution is not achieved, we are held responsible, typically. This does not seem just to me. In baseball, an error is part of the game. Our function is not a function of laying blame. It is a function of guidance toward solution. We guide the groups experiencing the problem to a solution or solutions. So, I ask, why is there blame if we do not achieve an acceptable solution?

So long as we continue to Practice the Art of Quality, our products, processes and services will continually improve, and the world will continually become a better place!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Six Habits of Great Change Leaders

I receintly read the following in a weekly newsletter I receive and feel it is worth repeating and sharing:

Six Habits of Great Change Leaders

Leading change is particularly challenging for any leader. Here are some habits of great change leaders, and suggestions for putting these habits into practice in your organization.

1. Provide an Inspiring Mission and Clear Direction

Know the value of creating a mission and direction that everyone understands and can follow.

2. Hire the Best People

Top performance comes from top people. Work to hire the best people possible.

3. Build a Strong Leadership Team

Have a strong guiding coalition. It's virtually impossible to lead significant change on one's own.

4. Get Out of the Way

Communicate the company vision and direction clearly, ensure that people are committed, then empower people to take independent action and make decisions.

5. Communicate Regularly

Be visible when things are going well and then remain visible when times are bad.

6. Reward and Recognize the Right Performance

Great change leaders know that reward and recognition have to be consistent with vision and direction.

by Dr. Jane Adler and Dr. Robert Karlsberg, The CEO Refresher

Monday, June 18, 2007

My commitment

On May 1, 2007 at the ASQ Ideas to Action Gathering I committed to learning how to start a blog and then beginning to blog...this posting has fulfilled my initial commitment. Next step is to keep this up and share my thoughts on Quality.

I've marketed myself a Quality Professional for about 20 years now, yet I still wonder about the definition of Quality. When one of my children bursts into spontaneous laughter I see the Quality of my Life (and theirs), yet in that laughter I also note minor flaws...are his or her teeth straight for instance. So I've asked myself time and again what is quality...

Some say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder – So quality is perceived by individuals in their own way. This, I believe and accept as the true definition of Quality...it is self defined.

According to Dr. W. Edwards Deming "Quality (control) does not mean achieving perfection. It means the efficient production of quality that the market expects". This, too, sounds reasonable, however, it is only referring to products and production. Not enough, what about service, what about quality of life?

Dr. Joseph Juran defined quality as "fitness for use". How do you use a flower? A perfect rose exhibits undefinable quality attributes but is it truly fit for use?

Phil Crosby said that quality is “Conformance to Requirements”. I ask, who defines the requirements? Answer - the user, therefore I go back to my earlier thought that Quality is perceived by the individual.

Many other definitions exist and if you review them you will find that they all seem to hover around this thougth of user perception.

So I will leave you for today with this thought...Quality is defined by you...when you interpret a specification you are defining the quality of the product as it should be, when you hold your child and he squeezes you back you are defining a quality of life equal to no other, when you accept a product or service you have accepted the producers perception of the product or service's quality, not your own perception unless the two match (and hopefully they do).